The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Imagine society blamed people for being diagnosed with illnesses such as cancer? Claiming that it was their choices in life that led to such an awful disease. To make them feel guilty of a situation that was in no way deserved by them. This happens all the time to victims of mental illness, but with the added burden of shame. The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay Considering the shocking statistic that one in four will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year in the UK , why is it that we hardly hear of people suffering from mental illness? Why is it a cloud of judgment and misunderstanding still surrounds the subject? People with a mental disorder or with a history of mental health issues are continually ostracized by society.

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Many myths and misconceptions contribute to stigma. A common one—sometimes perpetuated by the media—is that people with mental illnesses are typically violent. In truth, those living with mental illness are much more likely to be victimized by acts of crime, hate and discrimination than to perpetrate them.
Mental illnesses are some of the most misunderstood afflictions in today’s society. Too many people think of mental illness as a “weakness”. Like most illnesses, biological, psychological, and environmental factors are taken into consideration in diagnosis. The more severe mental illnesses are primarily diseases of the brain that cause distorted thinking, feelings, or behavior. In the cases of certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, a person’s actions are completely justified to themselves. Their distorted perception of reality allows them to experience extremely paranoid thoughts. These victims of such illness should not be subject to the added torture of judgment from the people surrounding them or the passive derogatory label of ‘schit’ The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

While stigma may not necessarily be a cause of a person’s mental disorder, it can certainly contribute to the complication and perpetuation of their illness. The effect of stigma goes well beyond just the patient and provides a commentary on society’s overall level of intolerance of those who are considered different from the majority. By recognizing the level of stigma that exists, perhaps we can alter that behavior and gravitate towards a more productive attitude towards mental illness. There are certain negative connotations that people use when identifying those who they consider to be different from the majority. Stereotyping is a means of assigning a set of characteristics to a group of people usually in an unflattering, The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay
The stigma label could increase his perception of hopelessness, which, in turn, perpetuates or magnifies the cycle of the illness. His family may feel the effects of the stigma since many people mistakenly consider all mental disorders to be either genetic or the result of an unfavorable upbringing. This, in turn, can erroneously create the family’s feelings of unfounded guilt or embarrassment. His friends and others in his support system can also be negatively impacted by the stigma simply from an association standpoint, possibly resulting in them distancing themselves from an already somewhat isolated patient. So the stigma exasperates the patient’s internal negative perceptions and can externally create conflict between him and those closest to him. It would be useful to measure the level of stigma against those with mental illness as a gage of social tolerance. If it could be determined that tolerance is increasing, then it could be possible that the negative connotations would be less prevalent leading to more productive outcomes of social interaction with the patient. It can be difficult to get a true measurement of the stigma against mental illness. When using explicit measurements, like direct questionnaires, people are more likely to answer the questions in a way that would portray them as being more socially proper. Whether it is fear of retaliation or simply fear of having it in a written record The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common.

Stigma can lead to discrimination. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Or it may be unintentional or subtle, such as someone avoiding you because the person assumes you could be unstable, violent or dangerous due to your mental illness. You may even judge yourself.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:

Reluctance to seek help or treatment
Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
Bullying, physical violence or harassment
Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
The belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation
Steps to cope with stigma
Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay
Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
Don’t isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay
Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illness, their families and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental illness.
Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental illness is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn’t know about a student’s disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
Others’ judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Webster’s dictionary defines a stigma as a mark of social disgrace. The stigmas surrounding mental illness have, for many years, stifled peoples interests in learning about the disorders people must live with. Mental illness has been around as long as people have been around. Times have changed and people have become more educated. The advancements towards understanding mental illnesses have introduced a whole new series of problems and solutions. Mental disorders are now classified and symptoms are more easily diagnosed. Mental illness is starting to be seen in younger and younger people. Doctors and psychiatric nurses alike will agree that children are being diagnosed younger and younger, but the good thing about this is now…show more content…
Mood disorders include Bipolar and Depressive disorders.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay  The most unfortunate thing about mental disorders is they don’t come alone, mental disorders are usually always paired with or mixed with another disorder and have numerous other health problems that accompany them. Through advancements in medicine and education, mental illness no longer holds the trump card to the way people live their lives. Mental Disorders have different causes depending on the disorder. The main causes of mental illness can be set into two groups, organic and inorganic. Organic caused disorders are disorders that are inherited from a family member. This family member must be direct like a mother or father for some disorders. With some other disorders however, it doesn’t matter how far back the connection goes. Developed disorders are also an organic cause; these disorders can occur even if no one in a family has ever had any sort of mental illness. Doctors are still searching for the reason why some disorders are developed. Inorganically caused mental illnesses are the disorders that are caused from the introduction and abuse of drugs and alcohol.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Stigma occurs when society labels someone as tainted or less desirable. Stigma involves three elements; a lack of knowledge (ignorance), negative attitudes (prejudice) and people behaving in ways that disadvantage the stigmatised person (discrimination) (1). Several health conditions are associated with stigma including some cancers, HIV, AIDS and skin conditions such as psoriasis. However the stigma related to mental health problems is particularly severe and widespread. This article discusses mental health stigma, its consequences and what can be done to reduce it.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Stigma and its consequences
Two main types of stigma occur with mental health problems, social stigma and self-stigma. Social stigma, also called public stigma, refers to negative stereotypes of those with a mental health problem. These stereotypes come to define the person, mark them out as different and prevent them being seen as an individual. Social stigma is associated with discrimination. For example a person with a mental health problem may find that others, including friends and colleagues, avoid them. They may also find it harder to gain housing, obtain employment and access healthcare and may find that their account is less likely to be believed by the police if they report a crime. A 2011 survey found that almost nine out of ten mental health service users in England had experienced discrimination (2). The consequences of discrimination, for example unemployment and social isolation, can stigmatise a person further. Self-stigma occurs when a person internalises negative stereotypes. This can cause low self-esteem, shame and hopelessness. Both types of stigma can lead a person to avoid seeking help for their mental health problem due to embarrassment or fear of being shunned or rejected. When this happens the underlying problem can go untreated causing unnecessary suffering. A delay in receiving treatment can worsen the outlook of some conditions as can the stress and anxiety caused by experiencing stigma. Family members can become stigmatised by a relative having a mental health problem, so called courtesy stigma.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

It has been argued that certain diagnostic labels cause stigma. Although it is true that certain diagnoses, for example schizophrenia, carry more negative connotations than other diagnoses, for example depression, stigma cannot be attributed to diagnosis alone. Stigma and discrimination have been associated with mental health problems throughout history, across cultures and long before modern diagnostic categories were established.

Lack of knowledge and negative attitudes
The level of knowledge among the public regarding mental health problems is poor and negative beliefs and attitudes are widespread (3). Both are key elements of stigma. One of the most common and damaging misperceptions is that people with schizophrenia are violent and a danger to others. This view has been perpetuated by misleading media reports. Research shows that although schizophrenia is associated with violent behaviour this accounts for less than 10% of violent crime in society (4). A person with schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violence than to be violent to another person (5). They are also more likely to be the victim of violence than a person in the general population (6). If a person with schizophrenia becomes aggressive this is often related to the use of excessive alcohol or street drugs which is similar to the situation seen with people who do not suffer from schizophrenia but become aggressive.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay


Public surveys show that eating disorders and problematic use of alcohol and other drugs are frequently seen as an individual’s own fault (3). People with these disorders, and also depression and anxiety, are often viewed as needing to ‘pull themselves together’. Such views would rarely be associated with cancer or heart disease. In reality the cause of most mental health problems, like most physical health problems, is complex and multiple risk factors contribute. Some factors can be modified which is important as it gives people some control over their health, for example eating a healthy diet to reduce the risk of heart disease or ensuring a sensible work/life balance to reduce the risk of depression. However many risk factors for physical and mental health problems are beyond an individual’s control, for example inheriting an increased vulnerability to develop heart disease, depression or some other medical condition. Another example of a risk factor, beyond the control of the sufferer, is childhood abuse and neglect which increases the risk for developing depression, problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, eating disorders, personality disorder and psychosis in later life.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Other misperceptions include the view that mental health problems are uncommon, that sufferers seldom recover and that treatment is ineffective. Mental health problems are common; one in four adults will suffer from a mental health problem in any given year and mental health problems account for about one third of all general practitioner (GP) consultations. However these disorders have a far better outcome than many people realise. For example half of those affected with a depressive illness recover within three months. Long term studies show that many people diagnosed with schizophrenia are functioning well and at least one in ten people who experience a first psychotic episode will not experience a further episode. A minority of people with mental health problems have severe, long-term symptoms and experience significant disability but this is no different to the situation with many physical illnesses. Most people who are treated for a mental health problem receive all their care from their GP and other staff in primary care with about 10% receiving additional help from specialist psychiatric services such as community mental health teams. Treatment depends on the nature of the problem and the individual. However, in general both talking treatments, such as cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT), and medication are reasonably effective. Many mental health problems can be treated successfully with talking treatments alone but medication is an important part of the treatment for many more severe problems. When medication is given it should always be accompanied by psychological and social approaches. The effectiveness of psychiatric drugs in a range of psychiatric conditions is similar to the effectiveness of medical drugs in a range of physical health disorders including migraine, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and high blood pressure (7).The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Negative views of mental health problems are held by people in all walks of life and of all ages. People with mental health problems can experience stigma and discrimination from family members, friends, teachers, work colleagues and health professionals including GPs, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses.

Reducing stigma
Education campaigns can help reduce stigma. Most are targeted at the general public but they can also focus on specific groups, for example teachers, the police or medical students. ‘Time to Change’ is England’s largest mental health anti-stigma campaign and was launched in 2009. It is led by the mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and is funded by the Department of Health, the Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay  Education campaigns often involve individuals with a mental health problem telling their personal story, either through film clips or face to face in workshops, with an emphasis on hope and recovery. Such ‘social contact intervention’ is an effective way to reduce stigma. Providing accurate information and key messages is also important. Examples of key messages include that mental health problems are common and affect people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures but are not a barrier to living a fulfilling and successful life as shown by the many famous people who have suffered from depression and other psychiatric problems.

‘Famous faces of depression’ poster is reproduced with permission of iFred
‘Famous faces of depression’ poster is reproduced with permission of iFred
Educational campaigns often target the media to try and ensure a more balanced and accurate coverage of mental health issues. This is crucial as the media can perpetuate negative stereotypes through inaccurate and distorted reporting of news stories. Surveys of newspapers in England find that just under half of articles with a mental health theme are stigmatising, for example they use pejorative language or emphasise the risk of violence to others (8).The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

The fictional portrayal of people with mental health problems in cinema and television is often misleading and stigmatising. A recent report identified four main cinematic stereotypes of people with mental health problems; objects of fun and ridicule, fakers, people to be pitied or violent individuals (9). The last portrayal is closely linked to cinematic portrayals of psychosis. The media reflect society’s existing prejudices and cannot be blamed for the existence of stigma but these representations have been described as a ‘reservoir’ that perpetuates damaging stereotypes. On the other hand some depictions of mental illness, particularly in several recent television dramas, are accurate, positive and can help reduce stigma and increase public understanding.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Tackling stigma is not only the responsibility of those organising large scale education campaigns. A ‘bottom up’ approach is also needed. People who have suffered from a mental health problem, family members, health care professionals and the general public need to feel confident to challenge negative stereotypes that they encounter, whether at work or socially. An example of this occurring on a large scale was in 2003 when the Sun newspaper reported on the former world heavyweight champion boxer Frank Bruno being admitted to a psychiatric ward with the headline ‘Bonkers Bruno Locked Up’. There was an immediate outcry by members of the public and mental health charities and the paper was forced to change the headline to the more sympathetic ‘Sad Bruno In Mental Home’ for the second edition.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Another way to combat stigma is through anti-discrimination policy and legislation. This approach has proven successful in reducing discrimination experienced by people on grounds of gender, race and sexual orientation. The Equality Act 2010 made it unlawful in Great Britain to discriminate directly or indirectly against someone who has a disability in work, education, public services and several other specified situations. The Act defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Long-term means the disorder has lasted a year, or is likely to last at least a year, or is likely to be recurrent. As such the definition could include people with a wide range of mental health problems such as learning difficulties, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The Act also requires employers to make reasonable adjustments in the work place if a person’s disability puts them at a disadvantage compared to others.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Signs of progress
Progress has been made in reducing mental health stigma. Mental health is discussed far more openly than in the past as shown by the many magazine articles, books and radio and television programmes on this subject. One of the most successful current plays in the West End, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’, is the sympathetic fictional account of a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome. In the 1990s the award winning author William Styron wrote about his depressive illness in the book ‘Darkness Visible’ as did the biologist Lewis Wolpert in a book entitled ‘Malignant Sadness’. The current Time to Change anti-stigma and discrimination campaign in England has been supported by celebrities and high profile figures, including Stephen Fry, Frank Bruno and Alastair Campbell, who have discussed their experience of suffering from a mental health problem.The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Image reproduced with permission from Time to Change
Image reproduced with permission from Time to Change
The Time to Change campaign has been accompanied by a decrease in stigma. Between 2008, the year before the campaign was launched, and 2011 there was a significant fall in the level of discrimination experienced by people using mental health services in England and a small increase in the proportion of people who reported experiencing no discrimination (2). Over the same period there was an increase in the proportion of anti-stigmatising newspaper articles (8). Unfortunately the proportion of stigmatising articles remained constant with the change being due to a decrease in the proportion of mixed or neutral articles. Between 2003 and 2013 there has been a small improvement in public attitudes to people with mental illness in England (10). A report published in 2014 concluded that television dramas were moving away from negative stereotypes towards a more accurate and sympathetic portrayal of people with mental health problems and that script writers were aware of mental health stigma and discrimination (11).The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

Despite the progress that has been made, mental health stigma remains widespread. Much of the reduction in stigma has centred on depression, bipolar disorder and other mood disorders while psychosis and schizophrenia remain highly stigmatised. A range of approaches are needed to tackle stigma. Reducing stigma can improve the quality of life of those with a mental health problem and is a major priority. The Stigma That Comes With Mental Illnesses Essay

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